Pelicans & NBA Basketball

The Pelicans have become money losers for sports bettors. Here’s why.

With major conference college football match-ups off the radar until after Christmas, VSiN can devote today’s report to the New Orleans Pelicans. We’ll gradually be transitioning from football to basketball in coming weeks. Should you be betting on the Pellies in your transition to the hardwood?

To this point, the answer has been no. Though Anthony Davis and his teammates have several impressive wins, the team has been a money loser so far this season for backers. It’s been tough to keep everyone healthy. Even when healthy, defensive effort has been spotty.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing New Orleans must have a great defense because Davis has the length to be a fantastic shot blocker. Modern NBA offenses tend to work around shot blockers with sharp passing. Many opponents have kept the Pelicans a step (or more) out of sync.

Here’s a brief report card of Pelicans’ skill sets so far to help bettors evaluate side or total bets …

Pace: very fast

Offense Efficiency: elite

Defensive Efficiency: awful

Rebounding: strong

Turnovers: middling

Three-point volume: below average

New Orleans loves to run the ball. It’s been up near the top five all season in pace factor, and often grades out as the fastest of serious playoff contenders (along with the Lakers, Thunder, and Bucks). The offense can really punish opponents at speed. “Offensive efficiency” is scoring adjusted for pace … and New Orleans ranks very high up in that measure. So, its high scoring offense isn’t a “pace illusion.” This team maximizes its offense at speed.

Unfortunately the defense is often a step behind at tempo. You may have noticed the team plays a lot of high scoring games, win or lose. But, this isn’t a case of a good defense suffering “stat inflation” in up-tempo games. Even when you account for possessions to this point in the 2018-19 season , the Pelicans still grade out very poorly on defense.

On the glass, New Orleans has been around the top five all season in “rebound rate,” which is the percentage of available rebounds grabbed. The Pelicans are better on offense (great) than defense (middling), a contributing factor to the efficiency differentials.

The offense ranks better than you might expect at turnover avoidance, hovering near league average despite forcing pace…but, lower in three-point volume. New Orleans is making a bit more than 10 treys per game. That’s below the league median, and a couple treys per game behind the elites. Those missing points will matter in the playoffs.

In terms of performance against market expectations, inconsistency has plagued the Pelicans. A lot of that going around this year. After covering their first three games of the season in impressive fashion back in late October, they were only about 40% to cover the next six weeks.

The worst time to ask New Orleans to play well has been on night two of a back-to-back. The Pelicans are just 1-4 ATS in such fatigue spots. Luckily, only one more of those before the year turns, December 29 at home vs. Houston.

If you’re wondering about futures prices … because Golden State is such a heavy favorite to win the Western Conference, global odds center around 25/1 for the Pelicans to capture the West, and 50/1 to win the NBA championship.

Elsewhere in sports betting news, there are six college football bowl games scheduled for Saturday. Let’s take a quick look at early betting.

CELEBRATION BOWL (ABC, 11 a.m.): North Carolina A&T opened at -7.5 vs. Alcorn State. No early line moves for teams that aren’t typically on the regular betting board. This game will be played in Atlanta.

NEW MEXICO BOWL (ESPN 1 p.m.): Utah State opened at -11 over North Texas. The underdog has been hit hard early, with the line dropping to as low as -8.

CURE BOWL (CBS Sports, 1:30 p.m.): A battle of Louisiana schools in Orlando, Florida. Tulane opened at -4 over Louisiana-Lafayette. The line has moved toward the key number of three, but not all the way there. Tulane could stay at -3.5 until game day.

LAS VEGAS BOWL (ABC, 2:30 p.m.): The first major conference team to take a bowl field is Arizona State of the Pac-12. The Sun Devils opened at +3 vs. Fresno State of the Mountain West. Pro bettors lifted the line to -4, and might take it even higher.

CAMELLIA BOWL (ESPN, 4:30 p.m.): In Birmingham, Alabama; Georgia Southern was bet from pick-em to -1 against Eastern Michigan.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL (ESPN, 8 p.m.): Appalachian State opened at -7.5 over Middle Tennessee. Underdog bettors brought the line down to the key number of -7.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at